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Medecine, Etchics and the Law - Case Study Example

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The Court of Appeal in England confirmed a lower court's ruling that doctors could perform an operation to separate recently born conjoined twins. The doctors were of the opinion that this might save one of the babies while the other would lose its life. They further stated that if the operation was not performed, then it could result in the death of both these twins within months of their birth…
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Medecine, Etchics and the Law
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Download file to see previous pages The medical issues involved are that, Jodie one of these conjoined twins is a bright alert baby with a functioning heart and lungs and her legs, though set wide apart can be rectified by surgery and on separation from Mary, the other twin in this conjoined pair, Jodie would be able to lead a relatively normal life, for instance walking unaided, attending school and being able to have children.
However, in respect of Mary, her face is deformed and more importantly her heart and lung functions are effectively none. Mary's existence is solely dependent on her physical attachment to Jodie. In other words, separation for Jodie means the expectation of a normal life and unfortunately, for Mary it means death1. The medical classification of this type of conjoined twins is termed as Ischiopagus tetrapus and in such twins is a fusion at the pelvic level often with sharing of genitourinary structures, rectum and liver.
From the ethical point of view, the Manchester team, which had never succeeded in separating Siamese twins, went to court to overturn the parents' refusal, without seeking a second medical opinion from the Great Ormond Street team, which had the requisite experience. The parents were not at all in agreement with the decision of the doctors. Further, the family were Italians who in order to avail themselves of the better medical facilities available, had come to England. A Catholic hospital in Italy had consented to provide care in accordance with the parents' wishes. In a number of analogous cases the world over, surgical teams had refused to operate because they could not morally accept the killing of one of the conjoined twins for the benefit of another.
As an example, the Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago, refused to operate on twins sharing a single heart, but separation was done at Philadelphia where one twin died at surgery ten weeks later the other also died. Professor Ignazio Marino of Italy refused to operate in a similar case for identical reasons. Although the medical judgment, that without separation both twins would die within six months could be correct, there are many examples of conjoined twins who had not been separated and who had lead contented lives.
It is not possible to find any justifiable reason as to why the parents' wishes had not been honoured. Even the legal judgments did not order the doctors to perform an operation; they only gave them permission to do so against the parents' wishes. Had St. Mary's acceded to the parents wishes, without taking recourse to the Courts, no one would have criticized them for letting nature take its course in accordance with the parents' wishes.
In this connection the Archbishop of Westminster, The Most Reverend Cormac Murphy-O'Connor made five submissions based on Roman Catholic faith and morality. "First, human life is sacred and inviolable. Secondly, a person's bodily integrity should not be invaded when that can confer no benefit. Thirdly, the duty to preserve one person's life cannot without grave injustice be effected by a lethal assault on another. Fourthly, there is no duty on doctors to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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